Results tagged “preserved”
Photo by Gemma Angel
There's been a bunch of talk in the news recently about what to do with your tattoos once you're dead. The buzz largely surrounds the skin preservation offerings of the Foundation for the Art and Science of Tattooing -- the work of Peter van der Helm, owner of Walls and Skin, a tattoo and a graffiti supply shop in Amsterdam.
This isn't a new story. I posted on Peter's "preserve your tattoos" project last year, when he began working on the service, but it seems that interest has grown exponentially since then. According to The Guardian:
More than 50 people have already signed up with the Foundation for the Art and Science of Tattooing, so that after their deaths, pathologists can remove the skin carrying their tattoo, pack it in formaldehyde and send it to a laboratory where the water and fat will be removed and replaced with silicone. They then become the property of the foundation, put on display or "loaned" to family and friends of the deceased.The Guardian also spoke to our friend Dr. Matt Lodder on the history behind tattooed skin preservation; Matt notes that there are collections of tattooed skin at museums in Krakow, Tokyo and London; however, a big difference in this case, is that "the foundation is ensuring the tattoos that are preserved are kept with the owner's permission."
"Everybody with tattoos has that idea. It's not a new idea, we just found a way to actually do it."
Quoted in the Reuters article "Dutch entrepreneur to preserve tattoos of the dead," these words above, by tattooer Peter van der Helm, has caused quite a buzz among collectors and artists who, indeed, have for a long time thought about preserving tattooed skin; however, even with international media picking up on the Reuters story, it's still not crystal clear how post-mortem bequeathing of tattooed skin plays out in The Netherlands, and beyond.
The actual preserving of skin is clearer. According to Reuters:
Hirschfeld and about 30 other clients of the "Walls and Skin" tattoo parlor, which is tucked away in a canal house in the Dutch capital, have donated their skin to the company in a will and each paid a few hundred euros.When they die a Dutch pathologist will remove the tattoo and freeze or package it in formaldehyde, ideally within 48 hours. It will then be sent to a laboratory outside the Netherlands, where a 12-week procedure extracts water and replaces it with silicone, leaving a rubbery substance.What's interesting to me is the way the laws of each country will treat how these remains can be passed along -- as well as be bought and sold. Will it just be like the treatment of cremation ashes (which have been incorporated in tattoo memorials) or fall under some other legal structure -- or not addressed at all, leaving it for entrepreneurs like Peter van der Helm to fulfill the tattooed's final wishes?
UPDATE: I spoke with Peter van der Helm and here's what he said of the process:
"You are actually donating your body to us and we make agreements upfront on how the tattoo should be handled. Legal wise, the remains become a product after the process we use is finished (by law). So it's not classified as human remains anymore."For more on preserved tattoo skin, see our previous posts:
Photo by Gemma Angel
There's a great interview in HuffPo UK -- entitled "Unlocking The Mysteries Of The Tattoos Of The Dead" -- with Gemma Angel, a tattooist and PhD student who studies the preserved tattoo skins of the Wellcome Collection, a London museum that houses an array of medial artifacts. [We wrote about Wellcome before here.]
In the Q&A, Gemma discusses her favorite preserved work (a large chest piece), her efforts finding who were the people behind the skins, and also who were those collecting these skins. There's a great quote related to the latter:
I think these collectors knew they were doing something that was a bit dodgy. I've come across references to one or two scandals which came about as a result of particular doctors harvesting and preserving tattoos - you might keep a pathological specimen from a human body for a teaching aid for medical students, but can you really justify keeping a tattoo? It seems there's some aspect fetishisation involved, of the tattooed image, and the skin itself. It's complicated, and I don't know if I'll ever get to the bottom of it, but I've got some time yet.
Through the article, I found Gemma's own personal site brilliantly titled Life and Six Months, based on this Sam Steward quote: "With some grim humour I always answered the question about how long a tattoo would last by saying: 'They are guaranteed for life - and six months'."
Check her site and see more photos of the tattooed flesh in the HuffPo piece.
And speaking of criminal tattoos...
A collection of 60 tattooed skins (preserved in formaldehyde) taken largely from dead prisoners is the subject of a "photo story" by Katarzyna Mirczak called Preserving the Criminal Code.
According to Mirczak, the Department of Forensic Medicine at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, collected the skins "with a view to deciphering the code - among prisoners known as a 'pattern language'. By looking closely at the prisoners' tattoos, their traits, temper, past, place of residence or the criminal group in which they were involved could be determined."
Read more on the preserved skins and see more images, like the ones, above here.
[Via Morbid Anatomy. Thanks to Samantha of Haute Macabre. And Melina too!]